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The Hot Plate: Nando’s Peri-Peri Is Yum-Yum

Nando’s Peri-Peri, the newest restaurant to open in Chinatown, is two things: affordable and tasty.

[IMGCAP(1)]The first U.S. location of this South African chain, Nando’s offers a beautiful interior, quality food and a bill that won’t break the bank. With items on the menu such as the whole chicken platter, roasted portobello mushroom with halloumi cheese and chili jam, and a butternut squash and couscous salad served to patrons seated under strands of white lights, there’s something for everyone.

The full platter is enough food for at least two people and probably the best deal on the menu at $21.95. It includes an entire chicken cut into four pieces and cooked to the customer’s preferred spice level, along with two large sides. Spice levels go from mild to extra hot, which the restaurant warns is “highly combustible.”

On Hot Plate’s visit, the chicken was juicy and tender, and had a kick even with the mildest marinade available. The mashed potato side was delicious, as the potatoes were whipped with the skins. The creamy concoction melts in your mouth, filling it with a savory garlic and butter taste. The chunky Portuguese salad was also excellent, featuring unusual feta cheese that had the look and texture of cottage cheese, but all the flavor of the Greek favorite.

For those who are looking for a lighter option, the chicken breast pita is a great meal, especially if you’re looking to grab food on the go. The pita is stuffed with vegetables and Nando’s famous chicken, and slathered in mayonnaise. While the mayo dominated the flavor a little too much, the chicken was delightfully juicy.

Another major perk at Nando’s: cheap, good wine. Bottles start as low as $14.95 and don’t exceed $30. Pitchers of sangria are also available for $14.95, though they seemed to sell out quickly on Saturday night. Wine is also available by the glass starting at $4.95. For those who prefer hops to grapes, two Portuguese beers are offered at $4.25 a pop, as well as Sam Adams Light for $4.50.

When Nando’s is busy, as it was on the Saturday night that Hot Plate visited, patrons are given a menu and a table number and asked to stand in line to place their order. After ordering at the counter, customers are given whatever drinks they may have ordered and sent to the table. Utensils, napkins and glasses of water are all up to the customer to retrieve and become a bit much to carry.

Once our order was placed, the food took 20 minutes to arrive, though we were immediately given our olive appetizer and wine. A subsequent visit after work on a Tuesday was much more relaxed. There wasn’t a crowd, and Hot Plate was seated immediately in a booth below a sea of white lights and given a menu before approaching the counter. The food came moments after it was ordered, and the busboy was quick to clear the table.

Nando’s Peri-Peri is a welcome addition to the D.C. dining scene. The restaurant — which also does takeout — offers great food and a fun atmosphere. As the economy continues to struggle and fine dining restaurants such as Butterfield 9 and Restaurant K shut their doors, affordable shops like Nando’s Peri-Peri are a welcome addition.

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